Thursday, 8 March 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
149. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the proposals he has to deal in an equitable way with students at second level who have been expelled from school while still of compulsory school going age and who receive no private tuition provided by the State, while those similarly expelled whose cases are pursued through the courts can receive such tuition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7252/01]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): Enrolment in second level schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of individual schools and my Department does not interfere in decisions made by schools in such matters. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking second level places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.
The national educational psychological service – NEPS – is available to all post-primary schools recognised by my Department. The NEPS can advise on the management of any difficulties that pupils might experience and which may present problems in a school setting. Where appropriate it can also advise on any educational supports which might be required to ensure that a pupil's time in school is as productive and positive as possible.
My Department gives assistance to parents where children are excluded from recognised post-primary schools. It endeavours, through a process of consultation with the schools and through the inspectorate, to secure a suitable school placement. My Department has no authority to compel a post-primary school to admit a pupil. It is often necessary to seek a placement in another school. Placement on a Youthreach programme may be an option in difficult cases.
Recognising the benefits of mainstream education from both an educational and personal development/socialisation perspective, the policy of my Department is to place all such pupils in a mainstream school, regardless of whether they are seeking educational provision through the courts or their cases otherwise come to the attention of my Department.
 Many such pupils need additional educational supports, which are identified and put in place in the particular mainstream school. These may encompass the allocation of additional teaching hours to a school to allow the pupil to receive some individual tuition in school, assistance with individual subjects and homework and additional input from the school guidance counsellor.
Reintegration to school, or commencement in a new school, may involve short days initially, with one to one tuition leading to gradual absorption into full classes, along with continuing one to one tuition. This can allow a pupil to begin to experience some educational success while also allowing school personnel to see this success. This can be a useful step towards successful reintegration.
In certain cases, if the pupil's behaviour presents acute management problems in class, a classroom assistant may be provided to assist with behavioural difficulties the pupil may have on a day to day basis in class.
Specialist in-service training can be provided to some teachers in the school, generally to the particular teacher who would be recognised as the key teacher involved in aiding the pupil's full integration into school life. This teacher would have a critical role to play in assisting the full integration of the pupil into normal school life through liaison with the pupil, parents and other teachers.
Each situation, whether pursued through the courts or otherwise, is approached on a case by case basis from the perspective of seeking to put in place the necessary supports to facilitate a suitable school placement for the individual child.
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